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Cesar C. v. Alicia L.

800 N.W.2d 249 (2011)

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Cesar C. v. Alicia L.

Nebraska Supreme Court

800 N.W.2d 249 (2011)

Facts

Cesar C. (plaintiff) and Alicia L. (defendant), unmarried, had a child, Jaime, in 2006. Cesar and Alicia both signed and had notarized an acknowledgement of paternity naming Cesar as Jaime’s biological father. Shortly thereafter, Alicia was convicted and imprisoned on drug charges, and she did not resume contact with Cesar and Jaime until 2009. After, Cesar filed suit in district court to establish paternity and sought custody and child support for Jaime. Alicia challenged Cesar’s paternity, and the district court ordered Cesar to submit to a paternity test, which showed that he was not Jaime’s biological father. In response, Cesar moved to have Alicia equitably estopped from denying he was Jaime’s father, citing that he had been Jaime’s sole parent his entire life and that Alicia had never indicated Cesar might not be Jaime’s biological father. Cesar offered the notarized acknowledgement of paternity into evidence without objection from Alicia. The district court held that Alicia could not terminate Cesar’s parental relationship with Jaime, pursuant to both equitable estoppel and the in loco parentis doctrine, but then applied the parental-preference doctrine to conclude that Alicia, as the biological parent, had a superior claim to custody of Jaime. The district court granted custody to Alicia and ordered Cesar to pay child support. Cesar appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Miller-Lerman, J.)

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